“You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.’ But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.
Within the natural or physical kingdom of God of ancient Israel, it was necessary to establish rules and safeguards for the population. For a private individual to purposely take the life of another for personal reasons was forbidden, and an offense for which the natural judgment of capital punishment was necessitated for the good of the community.
However, Yeshua uses this basic tenet of the kingdom charter, the ten commandments, as a way of elevating the principle to include any act of unrighteous anger toward another. In one sense, just as some thought is necessary before an action, any act of murder begins with unrighteous anger towards another. By highlighting and restricting the offense of the emotion, the act will not be carried out. Therefore, to prevent murder, one must eliminate the unrighteous anger behind the action.
Stated another way, as Yeshua points out, the judgment that an individual could face by committing murder could equally be leveled by God against the emotion. The action starts there, so the ultimate judgment would apply there, as well.
This would have been a revolutionary way for Yeshua to be confronting the Jewish leaders with their own practices, and he knew it would have a condemning effect; that was the point. They were so focused on practicing the letter of the law that they were violating just about every intent of it.
According to Yeshua here, the true intent of the command not to murder is to reach to the emotion underlying the act. By condemning the emotion, the act is eliminated, and the command is enhanced. In essence, Yeshua is saying, “While everyone knows that murder subjects you to judgment, I tell you, in God’s eyes, the same applies to unchecked emotions. Therefore, do not call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone.”
If judgment is the result of the emotion and the action, then a blessing can be inferred from the inverse emotion and action: If we always safeguard the lives and interests of others, without being unrighteously angry with anyone at any time, then the true intent of the command will be fulfilled in us resulting in blessing, not judgment.
We do well to keep in mind that the physical kingdom of ancient Israel was the template, the basis, for the universal and spiritual kingdom of God. As such, the principles in place then, such as the command not to murder, are still in force in the universal kingdom.
However, through the instruction of Yeshua within the gospel of the kingdom, he highlighted how they are enhanced further. This was the meaning and the promise of the law being placed on the heart of the believer within the universal kingdom. If the heart has been renewed, then no law will be violated. In effect, if all of the actions come from a renewed heart of righteousness, then the law will be kept perfectly.
This is the goal that Yeshua came to express. This was the intent of the gospel of the kingdom, and why it was considered good news. As believers, we have been freed from the condemnation and death of the natural law, because the law placed on our heart ensures we are abiding within the instruction of God for all time.
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…he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.
In our English Bibles, sometimes verses that express compassion will mention mercy or kindness; sometimes compassion is equated with forgiveness. However it is expressed, we are commanded by Yeshua to be like God in regard to his mercy and compassion. What does that look like?
Ezekiel 16:5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you, to have compassion on you; but you were cast out in the open field, for that your person was abhorred, in the day that you were born.
Psalm 78:36-39 But they flattered him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongue. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they faithful in his covenant. But he, being compassionate, forgave iniquity, and didn’t destroy them. Yes, many times he turned his anger away, and didn’t stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes away, and doesn’t come again.
Micah 7:18-19 Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of his heritage? He doesn’t retain his anger forever, because he delights in loving kindness. He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
Jeremiah 12:15 It shall happen, after that I have plucked them up [from their land due to their disobedience], I will return and have compassion on them; and I will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.
God’s compassion has been evident in choosing to take care of Israel as caring for an abandoned baby. His compassion is evident in forgiving them when they were consistently unthankful and disobedient to him. His compassion is evident in restoring Israel to their land after their captivity for disobedience.
If we are to be merciful and compassionate like our Father, we need to recognize that the examples he sets for us is teaching us that compassion is all about helping those who are unable to help themselves.
Yeshua exhibited this same type of compassion by teaching his people who were like lost sheep without a shepherd, but also by filling their bellies when they were in need in a deserted location. Just like his Father, his compassion helped those who could not help themselves.
If someone has wronged you, the relationship cannot be restored unless you extend compassion; you are helping someone who cannot get help themselves get past some misunderstanding or offense. This is equally as compassionate as providing food or clothing to those who have none, or very little.
If we are to imitate our Father, it has to be in relentlessly building bridges between those who are unyielding in their positions or those whose circumstances will not be changed without some sort of intervention. Our compassion is designed to be the catalyst that drops barriers, opens doors, and sparks understanding. Compassion is building bridges to others who are unable to get from where they are to where God wants them to be.
This is the goal of the command for us to be merciful and compassionate with others. When we exhibit the characteristics of our Father, then people who may never have picked up a Bible will still be able to see him in action, and be helped in the process.
Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.
Our words are important, and in this day of instant and voluminous communication, there are numberless words spent daily in the vast sea of our digital culture. Not all of that communication is helpful, and much of it is downright hurtful. However, as believers, our words should be a blessing to others.
The definition of the word that we translate as blessing means to “speak well of,” to “praise” or to “wish for the prosperity of.” It is the same word that we get our English word eulogy: an example of speaking well of someone who has recently died, or delivering a benediction of well-wishing upon a person or group of people. To bless others is to speak well of them and wish them prosperity and wholeness.
This seems simple and natural among friends and family, but we are commanded by Yeshua to have this same level of concern and care for those outside of our common circle, and in fact, with those who would seek to do us harm. In the verse above, he commands us to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who would seek to hurt us.
This is a root sentiment among the early believers, as well:
Romans 12:14 – Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
1 Peter 3:9 – Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
I find it interesting that Peter attaches a reward to this practice: God will bless you for it. To bless others is to receive a blessing from God in return. If we feel that we are outside of God’s blessing at times, perhaps it is because this required practice is lacking in our lives.
The real challenge is in not only speaking well of our adversaries, but truly meaning it from the heart. This requires a type of ongoing forgiveness for the wrongs that others may commit against us. And yet, for our blessing of others to be genuine it has to come from the heart.
Certainly, this is not a natural inclination, but, as believers, we are not just natural beings.
The apostle Paul speaks of it this way:
Therefore, if anyone [is] in Messiah, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Yeshua instructs us that we are not to call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone, and that the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart. If what is in your heart is bitterness and unforgiveness, then that is what will come out of your mouth. However, if what is in your heart is real love and forgiveness as part of God’s new creation, then what comes out of your mouth will be genuine blessing for others.
Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life.
Following in the footsteps of Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs, the apostle James illustrates it in this fashion:
But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
When it boiled down to essentials, the issue is really not our tongue, but the spring of our heart. If the spring is fresh water, then the tongue will yield fresh water for others. If, in obedience to Yeshua, we are to truly bless those who work against us at all times, then we need to ensure that rooted in the depths of our heart is an ongoing measure of real forgiveness. Then no wrongs can be too harsh, no hurt can be too severe. Blessing and prayer for all others will become the living water flowing from our hearts.
Then the chief of staff stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, “Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you from my power. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the LORD by saying, ‘The LORD will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’ “Don’t listen to Hezekiah!…
2 Kings 18:28-31
Assyria was on a military campaign against the surrounding nations, and Israel had come into its sights. The king of Assyria, Sennacherib, had declared war on Jerusalem and prior to setting up a siege, the commander was declaring its intent to the city.
However, Hezekiah, not being deterred by the king’s arrogance, laid out the demands of the Assyrian king before God in the temple, and prayed for deliverance.
After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the LORD’s Temple and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God. “It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all–only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”
2 Kings 19:14-19
He trusted in God to deliver his people. Through this act of humility and trust, God responded through the prophet Isaiah that he would indeed protect Jerusalem and the honor of his Name.
The very next day, almost the entire Assyrian army was dead:
That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.
2 Kings 19:35-36
It’s one thing to trust God for one’s own private needs or the needs of one’s own family, but consider how much faith Hezekiah was displaying by trusting God for an entire city, and even the nation of Israel!
Think of some of the alternatives: he could have mustered troops to come out in battle against Assyria, trusting in the might of his own army. Or he could have sent word to Egypt trusting in a foreign country as an ally to come and defend the city, but he didn’t do either of these things. He simply laid out the situation before God and prayed humbly and sincerely for deliverance. Through his simple act of faithfulness, the aggression of a military “superpower” was averted.
In like fashion, Yeshua encouraged his hearers to not be anxious for the future by trusting in God. How much more can your trust in God be emboldened to consider that God, through a sincere and humble trust in him, is able to deliver an entire nation from the aggression of another?
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Paul’s admonition here is for cleansing our ourselves from everything that can defile our body and spirit. This, he says, is working toward complete holiness; that is, with holiness as the fulfillment, the end goal, of this cleansing.
However, the motivation for this goal comes from some promises he has just mentioned. Since this is the first verse in chapter 7 in our Bibles, this must mean he mentioned some promises at the end of chapter 6. What promises is he referring to?
Well, the direct answer comes when we review verses 17 and 18: “I will receive you,” and “I will be your father and you will be unto me for sons and daughters.”
These are, indeed, amazing promises. But these promises are contingent on this cleansing, a setting apart of some sort. Let’s review the passage in full to see the context:
Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
I know this passage has classically been used for the purpose of warning believers not to marry non-believers, and while that is certainly a commendable ideal, that is not the context of this passage; marriage is no where in Paul’s sights here.
The real message is that separation from non-believers is required in any type of joint-effort where a compromise of God’s principles would become involved. Believers are not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained.
As an example, in Paul’s day, it was customary to invite friends to go out to dinner, so to speak, in a temple of a local deity. A fellowship meal in an idol’s temple was the equivalent of going out to eat in a restaurant today. It was also an accepted practice to purchase meat in the local market that had first been offered to an idol. These were such serious issues that Paul devotes a whole chapter (chapter 8) in his first letter to the Corinthians to these practices.
It is also mentioned as a primary restriction required of new believers from the Jerusalem Council decision:
Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood.
To remind the believers of the severity of this command, Paul, as he is known to do, quotes from several selections of torah, or God’s instruction, to make his point:
Leviticus 7:21 – If you touch anything that is unclean (whether it is human defilement or an unclean animal or any other unclean, detestable thing) and then eat meat from a peace offering presented to the LORD, you will be cut off from the community.”
Leviticus 11:8 – You may not eat the meat of these animals or even touch their carcasses. They are ceremonially unclean for you.
Leviticus 26:11-12 – I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.
Ezekiel 37:27 – I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
He pulls together principles rooted in the holiness of God; avoiding ceremonial uncleanness is the model, the example, of how believers were to ensure they were continuing to pattern their lives in the assemblies of Messiah. If they did so, God would be among them.
Uncleanness went beyond just animals to other sanitary practices among the people of God, from bodily fluids to accidentally touching dead bodies. But the principle was the same: separating oneself from these things was an act of holiness, which by its very definition means to be set apart.
Paul is using that same established torah logic among the believers in Corinth to remind them of their unique position among their generation, and that they should not forfeit their standing with God on the accepted conventions and customs of the day. According to Yeshua’s admonition of Matthew 5:8, believers were to have a pure and blameless heart at all times. Separation from unclean practices was necessary to achieve this.
How can we apply this same principle in our day? What types of accepted conventions in social discourse today compromise the principles of God and his character? What activities demean and denigrate God’s glory, yet are considered “ok” by the rest of our society?
These are the things we are to avoid being “yoked” together (i.e., going along with) non-believers for the sake of fellowship. We cannot be united with them in those things because they compromise God’s integrity and honor.
However, Paul’s admonition is that when we do actively separate ourselves, when we cleanse ourselves from these things, then we are truly behaving like God’s sons and daughters, and only then will he will be present among us. This is the fulfillment of the promises when we take decisive actions to maintain our holiness out of godly respect and honoring of him.
In this episode we will be exploring the topic of trust in God, and how God’s provision is promised within the activities of the kingdom.
Yeshua stated it this way:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25
In the core of the Bible paraphrase, I have stated it this way:
“Unnecessary anxiety over the essentials of life can consume us and cause us to lose our eternal perspective.”
Life is about so much more than the temporary things of this existence in this world. And yet we are constantly distracted with the basics of living that we forget about the true life that only comes from God. For believers, this is an ongoing struggle: to remain focused on God while overcoming the flash and noise of this world.
But a way to overcome this is to change our perspective. If we are able to get our focus off of ourselves and our problems, and focus on the important things like the Kingdom of God, we have more strength to overcome our struggles, which by comparison, are much less significant. Having our perspective changed from temporary to eternal will change how we respond to these hurdles. We will find over time that the anxiety and distress over temporary things will begin to fade as we focus more on the eternal things.
So to begin looking at this passage in Matthew 6, according to Yeshua, life is more than food.
Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.
He is reassuring his hearers that if God is able to provide animals their food, he can certainly provide it for those who are serving him in his kingdom.
This is an echo from the Psalms:
Psalm 104:20-21 – You send the darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals prowl about. Then the young lions roar for their prey, stalking the food provided by God.
Those who are serving God in his kingdom may not always know how or what kind of food they will have, but God is able to provide it when the focus is first and always on him.
Continuing in Matthew 6:26, Yeshua states the conclusion of this provision for animals by saying, “And aren’t you far more valuable to God than they are?” The implied answer, of course, is yes you are! You have far more worth than many sparrows or lions because you are created in the image of God; your whole being is modeled on his.
Yeshua also teaches us that the body is more than clothing.
Matthew 6:28-30 – “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
God’s provision of food and clothing for believers is being compared to the natural order within God’s creation. Just as being a participant in God’s creation entitles his creatures to the natural provision of their needs, being a participant in God’s kingdom naturally entitles his children to the basic necessities of living.
Psalm 37:23-25 – The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand. Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.
The provision of these basic needs belong to those who are seeking first the kingdom, i.e., believers. However, if there is no kingdom-seeking going on, there is no guarantee that this provision will be met. The benefits of the natural order of creation belong to those who trust in the Creator, as the benefits of the natural order of the kingdom belong to those who trust in the King.
Also, the basic needs being discussed here may not be what one would expect or is accustomed to. What we consider basic and what God considers basic may be two different ideals completely. But if we are trusting in him for our spiritual needs, Yeshua is implying that God will meet our physical needs. We may not be rich, but we will be able to get by. We may not always have the type and quantity of food that we want, but we will not actually starve. That gives God a wide latitude of options when it comes to meeting our needs.
Our role is to recognize his provision and to be grateful and content with what he has provided for us. As Paul writes:
Philippians 4:11-13 – Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Messiah, who gives me strength.
To understand more about how God can provide, we can view some examples of how he has done so in the past.
The most apparent and significant example of this principle is expressed in how God provided for the priests who spent all of their time regarding the things of God involved with sacrifice and maintaining the Tabernacle. Because they spent all of their time in this necessary service and ministry, they were not granted any land inheritance, and they could not farm for themselves. God provided for their needs by allowing them to eat (with specific limitations) the choicest offerings of the people that were brought to God.
Leviticus 10:12-15 And Moses said to Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering that remains from the offerings made by fire to the LORD and eat it without leaven beside the altar, because it is most holy. You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your share and your sons’ share of the offerings made by fire to the LORD; for this is what I have been commanded. And you and your sons and daughters may eat the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the contribution in a ceremonially clean place, because these portions have been assigned to you and your children from the peace offerings of the sons of Israel. They are to bring the thigh of the contribution and the breast of the wave offering, together with the fat portions of the offerings made by fire, to wave as a wave offering before the LORD. It will belong permanently to you and your children, as the LORD has commanded.”
Deuteronomy 18:1-2 The Levitical priests—indeed the whole tribe of Levi—shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They are to eat the offerings made by fire to the LORD; that is their inheritance. Although they have no inheritance among their brothers, the LORD is their inheritance, as He promised them.
So we see that because the priests were wholly occupied with the work of the Tabernacle, God was providing for their needs in the very acts of their service.
The Tabernacle or Mishkan in Hebrew was the symbolic root of God’s kingdom on the earth, which is why it is explained in such detail in the Old Testament. It represented God’s presence on the earth; it is where forgiveness was offered as repentant people brought their offerings. It was the center and heart of the camp of Israel in the wilderness, and everything in that community revolved around the presence of God in that place and his guidance in every aspect of their lives. To be a member of the Levites who were continually working within the courts of the Mishkan was considered a great honor, and they were highly regarded by others in the community.
This was the initial and primary pattern of how God would provide for those who were sacrificing all of their worldly inheritance to participate in this model of the kingdom on earth. And this is an eternal pattern that is established for us right down to our current day and age. As we seek first his kingdom, we need to trust that God will provide for us so we can keep our attention and focus on him and his purpose at all times. And when we truly trust him for our provision, he will not disappoint us.
Another interesting aspect of God’s provision is brought out as we look at the sacrifice of Abraham. In the story, Abraham is preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac in amazing and unswerving obedience to God’s request. As they are assembling everything necessary for the sacrifice to take place, Isaac innocently asks where the lamb is for the sacrifice.
Genesis 22:8, 14 – “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.”
Well, of course, all along Isaac was intended to be the sacrificial offering, and yet just as Abraham is about to fulfill his duty in faithful obedience, something happens.
Genesis 22:12-14 – “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of Yahweh it will be provided.”
While this famous passage is used to teach many wonderful and, yes, challenging aspects of God’s character and purpose which we do not have time to explore in this lesson, it primarily focuses on the idea that God is a provider; in fact, that is one of his names: Yahweh-Yireh (Or Jehovah Jirah, as the song goes).
While this passage confirms God’s ability to provide, let’s take a step back from the imagery of the story into the text itself. I find it interesting to note that the word for provide actually has a root in the word ra’a: to see, perceive, appear, cause to see. It’s as if at a point, God’s provision is made apparent when it wasn’t apparent previously.
Genesis 22:13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
As soon as the test was over, Abraham saw the ram caught in the thicket. So then the question becomes, had the ram been there the whole time, or did it just happen to get caught right at the time Abraham needed it? Well, the verse doesn’t actually say, but it does raise some interesting ideas of just how God’s provision comes to pass.
We can see a similar idea of seeing God’s provision another narrative involving Abraham with the story of Hagar. When she was being sent away by Abraham into the wilderness, the passage says she saw a well of water when the need arose:
Genesis 21:14-16, 19 – So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears. … Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.
So the question is, did God miraculously provide a well that wasn’t there previously, or did he just reveal its location, make it apparent, to Hagar when her need was greatest?
Another famous example revolves around the rivalry between the nation of Aram and Israel. Elisha was the prophet of God at the time, and knew that God would deliver the Israelites from the hand of Aram:
2 Kings 6:14-17 – So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city [of Dothan]. When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
By contrast, just like revealing provisions that were not apparent previously, God can also cause some not to see when the reality is right before them.
2 Kings 6:18-20 – As the Aramean army advanced toward him, Elisha prayed, “O LORD, please make them blind.” So the LORD struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked. Then Elisha went out and told them, “You have come the wrong way! This isn’t the right city! Follow me, and I will take you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to the city of Samaria. As soon as they had entered Samaria, Elisha prayed, “O LORD, now open their eyes and let them see.” So the LORD opened their eyes, and they discovered that they were in the middle of Samaria.
Yeshua touched on this concept of “seeing and not seeing” in the preaching of the kingdom:
Luke 10:23-24 Then Jesus turned to the disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Mark 4:11-12 “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside everything is expressed in parables, so that, ‘ they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.’”
Of course, this is a quote from a famous passage in Isaiah, demonstrating how God would be very intentional with reaching out to Israel, and yet they would reject him, being blind and deaf to his pleadings:
Isaiah 6:8-10 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?” And I said: “Here am I. Send me!” And He replied: “Go and tell this people, ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the hearts of this people calloused; deafen their ears and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
So what can we take away from all of these stories of God’s provision, and seeing and not seeing? Well, according to the example of the Levites, we can see that God will provide for those who are wholly engaged in the service of the kingdom. We can also understand from the stories of Abraham, Hagar and Elisha that God’s provision becomes apparent when it is needed, in his timing.
What this implies is that God’s provision is already here, but many times we just can’t see it. Though we may be physically incapable, mentally incapable, or spiritually incapable of seeing clearly, we can be certain that God’s provision is always at hand for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
When we are trusting in God and his Messiah, we are placing ourselves in line with those believers in the past who have had real provision of needs shown and available to and around them. God’s bounty is abundantly more than we can ever ask for.
Learning to trust God in this way liberates us from micro-managing. Trusting God allows God to be God, and for Yeshua to reign as Lord in our lives, because then we can be freed to live for him. As we focus on the kingdom and the righteousness of God, God provides for our needs.
Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that If we are truly trusting in God, we can know that he will supply these basics of life through whatever means he chooses. They may not be in the brand or style that we would choose for ourselves, but knowing that they can and will be provided can free us up to focus on the more significant aspects of this life. When we truly trust God, we demonstrate that we are not subject to the typical anxieties of this life. We are then living out the values of his kingdom, knowing the King provides for his subjects.
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If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Yeshua taught that we should always keep asking, knocking, and seeking in order to receive, have doors opened, and to find what it is we’re searching for. Paul carries this theme of searching forward into a mindset that should continually guide us in our ongoing new life in Messiah.
To Paul, placing one’s faith in the Messiah was a matter of life and death: death to self and traditions of men, and new life as a new self that seeks after the things of God.
For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Therefore, put to death whatever is worldly in you: your sexual sin, perversion, passion, lust, and greed (which is the same thing as worshiping wealth).
This putting to death of our worldly passions and desires was considered to be an ongoing practice, one to where the believer becomes the dichotomous “living sacrifice;” that which is constantly being offered up, yet continually alive, as well.
Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.
This renewal of mind comes as we vigilantly “seek the things that are above,” not only looking forward to a heavenly eternity, but finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now, incorporating our new life into the life we are living now.
This seeking involves ongoing aspects that are wrapped up in the definition of the original wording used in the text: to seek in order to find a thing; to seek in order to find out by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into; to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after; to require, demand; to crave. These types of urgent and continual qualities of vigilance are the intent of Yeshua’s exhortation to keep seeking until the objective is found.
In like fashion, Paul uses the same wording to emphasize the believers desperate motivation to know God and his Messiah, to learn more about the things of God and to keep our focus there through the trials of life.
In this way, we end up “putting to death” our selfish desires and we rise to the new life of our new self, created to be like him.
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.
Do what is right and good in the Yahweh’s sight, so all will go well with you. … For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands Yahweh our God has given us.
Deuteronomy 6:18, 25
Yeshua taught that believers should demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands. The integrity of the actions we pursue and the decisions we make should come from a genuine place in our hearts, not just outward compliance.
What Yeshua was teaching the audience of his day was nothing new. Moses had urged this of the Hebrew community over a millennia earlier, and they had formed many traditions around his template to maintain a continuous recognition of the commands of God.
Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for symbols between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.
The method used by Hebrew believers over the years to accomplish this doing of the commands from the heart is in the recitation of the Shema. As outlined from a popular Jewish website below, this process has become a daily declaration of their faith.
Shema Yisrael (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל) (“Hear, O Israel”) are the first two words of a section of the Torah that is the centerpiece of the morning and evening prayer services, encapsulating the monotheistic essence of Judaism:
“Hear, O Israel: G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is one.”
In its entirety, the Shema consists of three paragraphs: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41.
Its recitation twice daily (morning and evening) is a biblical commandment. In addition, we recite it just before retiring for the night, as well as in the Kedushah service on Shabbat.
Indeed, this succinct statement has become so central to the Jewish people that it is the climax of the final Ne’ilah prayer of Yom Kippur, and is traditionally a Jew’s last words on earth.
While I am not suggesting we adopt this specific Jewish tradition listed above, its method of identifying what is most important and reviewing it in an intentional way should be an example to us of the tenacity required to imbue their culture with a recognition of an obedient life, an upright and righteous life, a life of true integrity.
How diligent are we in making sure the words of God are in our hearts so we can act on them without even thinking? Like physical reflexes, we should respond to our situations and conditions in ways that honor God because his instruction is thriving in our hearts. When situations arise that demand our obedience, we shouldn’t have to seek commentaries and biblical concordances; we should be so imbued with God’s word that his Spirit can bring those insights to the forefront of our thinking, and therefore our actions, whenever needed.
Moses’ method in the commandment involves a constant, daily, repetitious routine that would saturate the culture of the people. “…you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
If we could find ways to incorporate this level of diligence in our daily routines for ourselves and within our families, we would not only be following the commandment, but we would also be living lives of integrity that would be clearly and intentionally patterned on God’s word.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.
Within the kingdom of God, there would be many roles requiring to be fulfilled. While most people look to define and embrace roles like prophets, priests, teachers, helpers, there are no roles as basic and impactful as the roles within each family: husband and wife, mother and father.
This significance of man and woman in the kingdom is a basic building block upon which everything else is built. The male and female component is inherent within the DNA of the kingdom, right back to its origins in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden.
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
The very first royal edict of the kingdom had to do with man and woman reigning and having dominion over God’s Creation. In Hebrew culture, the father and the mother are therefore figures representing divine authority over the family. They are the representatives of God, made in his image, and to be respected as possessing and implementing the wisdom of God.
This is brought out throughout the biblical stories, but is most blatantly evident in the Proverbs.
Proverbs 1:8-9 – Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother. For they are a garland of grace on your head and a pendant around your neck.
Proverbs 23:22 – Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old.
Proverbs 15:20 – Sensible children bring joy to their father; foolish children despise their mother.
However, children who are disobedient to this most basic sense of authority are shown the end that results from choosing their own way.
Proverbs 19:26 – Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are an embarrassment and a public disgrace.
Proverbs 20:20 – If you insult your father or mother, your light will be snuffed out in total darkness.
Proverbs 28:24 – Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.
Proverbs 30:17 – The eye that mocks a father and despises a mother’s instructions will be plucked out by ravens of the valley and eaten by vultures.
This recognition of the authority of the father and mother carries over into the kingdom dynamic of the New Testament as well:
Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”
Paul writes here that this commandment to honor father and mother is the first command with a promise for well-being and long life. The idea is that a believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best guidance and direction that would lead to those things for the children who are obedient to their instruction.
The respect and honor of father and mother is therefore part of the eternal torah, or instruction, of God for all time. As the mother and father “rule” righteously over the kingdom of their family, they are fulfilling a role that is embedded within the Creation itself, a role that hearkens back through ancestral lines all the way to the original parents in the Garden. The Garden imagery of Paradise (the idealized kingdom) is therefore brought to life for each generation through every faithful father and mother.
As believing parents recognize this awesome responsibility of the authority they carry, the Kingdom of God can continue to grow in righteousness, honoring the original parents whom God set over all Creation.
Jesus came out, saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.
Yeshua’s compassion here is expressed through a recognition of the general population of Israel’s lack of correct doctrine, and their eagerness to learn.
The context of this verse is set as Yeshua and his disciples have been tirelessly ministering and are now attempting to find a secluded place to be refreshed. Yet, thousands of people find out where they are going across the lake of Galilee and end up waiting for them on the shore when they arrive. Seeing these crowds, Yeshua is moved with compassion, and decides to continue to provide instruction.
Whenever a text mentions Yeshua has compassion on someone, he immediately does something to help them.
Matthew 14:14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 15:32 Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”
Matthew 20:34 Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.
Mark 1:41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”
In this case in Mark 6:34, his response is to provide them instruction. Instructing others in the way of God is an act of compassion toward those who are willing to hear. The most willing disciples are those who are hungry to learn. This is symbolized through the story immediately following this verse: the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Although Yeshua and his disciples had limited resources, God provided enough food to satisfy everyone with more left over.
This metaphorically reinforced his act of compassion to begin with: instructing them in the way of God. The crowds’ hunger for truth was not only satisfied, but there was so much more left over. In like fashion, we can be sure that when we act compassionately in faith, whatever our response, God will be faithful to fill that need through us.
Instructing others in the way of God should be motivated by compassion for others who are willing to hear. Teaching only for the sake of prestige, or wealth, or obligation will rob that form of instruction of its power and purpose. But teaching that is coming from a heart of true compassion will be blessed with multiplication and fulfillment.